Score = D
Review by: Kisho Wolfe
Logline: Sure there’s a fire, but without the blaze.
A neighborhood hero in the form of a fire fighter has life figured out. A good job, good friends, and his pick of lovely ladies . One morning after a successful fire dousing, he and a few co-workers hit a convenience store before heading home. Our protagonist (Josh Duhamel) goes in solo while his buddies supposedly go across the street for something else. Of course something serious is about to go down when a pair of thug looking fellows enter the establishment. More than a robbery unsettles the convenience store as our hero witness’s murder, up close and personal. Barely escaping with his own life, he’s now faced with a moral dilemma of testifying against the murderer, an Aryan supremacist (Vincent D’Onofrio), or turning the other cheek to protect anyone he even remotely considers a friend.
Coerced into doing the right thing by a local detective (Bruce Willis) with personal stake in convicting the killer, he’s placed under witness protection and relocated. The obvious plot point kicks in gear as the court date approaches and the killer starts making good on his threats, causing our hero to change gears from the hunted to the hunter, so-to-speak.
Fire with Fire struggles in a number of areas. One in particular would be the lack of tension building throughout the movie. There are a lot of tense moments in the action, but there are also plenty of missed opportunities to build up to their proverbial money shots. The director seemed to try to shock the viewer with a “surprise” attack here or “fill-in-the-blank” connection there. Sure some things were obvious, such as our hero’s love affair with a U.S. Marshal (Rosario Dawson), or the local detective’s extreme hate for the murderer; but we never really get a chance to witness the love affair’s inception or any real history of much in the film to become emotionally invested in the character’s stories. A mark of a great film maker/story-teller is the ability to make the viewer care about the characters they are spending time with, and this film doesn’t quite make that happen.
Follow-through was also a part of the missing link to this film. What was the resulting effect on the gang war that was brewing? What was the outcome of his friend? Did the U.S. Marshal get her ass chewed out for ultimately being stupid more than once during the film? Is our hero safe or is there retaliation by the brotherhood for his actions??? No follow-through, just a bunch of unanswered questions. Fire with Fire is a movie with a solid core, but lacks supporting features to strengthen that core. The overall general surface ambiance is hard to miss with all the “window shopping” of potential stories throughout the movie. Action, thriller, drama, crime, romance; the film wants to be all of these things, but severely shoots itself in the foot with potential motives and minuscule execution. With a plot driven script such as this, maybe it would have benefited the movie makers to focus on one or two of these avenues, rather than trying to make an all-inclusive movie to make for better story telling. On a final note, this is a straight to DVD concoction, and the box-art succeeds in rounding out all things brain boggling. Mr. 50 Cent is in the movie for about five minutes with less than a spec to his script and without poppin’ a single cap. His subordinate in the movie, Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson’s role is larger than his. So why the hell is he on the cover art instead of our villain? Wonder how much he paid for that one. SMH…